Conversation Marketing: The Conversation is the Thing

Christine Fife

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Loosing a customer doesn’t have to be an all out failure

Every marketer, and hopefully all business professionals, know that it costs much more to gain new customers than it does to retain current customers. How successful are you at retaining your customers? Are you loosing customers that you aren’t even aware of because your employees—all employees, but particularly those with customer-facing roles—haven’t developed the skills they need to inspire your customers to stay with you?

If someone merely stops buying your product it may not be a total lose. If you sell diapers, perhaps they stopped buying because their kids are potty trained, right? A total loss—an all out failure—is when someone stops buying your product in favor of another product that fulfills the same need, writes negative reviews about your product or company and tells others where they can get the same product for less or with better customer service. A customer’s child may grow up, but you need to make sure their total experience inspires them to recommend your company and products, or at the very least, they don’t have negative comments to share or actively work to recommend your competitors.

Example: Lost Customer—An All Out Failure
The other day I purchased a Cat Climber thing (see image) that attaches to a door so a cat can climb on it and scratch it (instead of the couch). My cat loves to climb, so… I thought I’d ditch the nasty old scratching post for this cool thing. I didn’t buy it from Pioneer Pets directly. I purchased it through
The order went through, no problem. The correct item arrived on time. All was great—thanks, But then I tried assembling it. and Pet Pioneer sites indicate “easy assembly and disassembly”. NOT! Aside from the fact that it is very heavy and awkward to actually assemble, the instructions did not actually indicate in writing or imagery exactly how to utilize the 2 washers on the bolts to make the platforms connect to one another .

I eventually got the thing together and tried to hang it on the door, but the door seemed to be too tall. The bottom piece includes a spring-loaded metal attachment that came assembled, but clearly had screws and additional holes for screws that seemed as if it could be adjusted for different size doors. When it wasn’t able to fit my door, I returned to the instructions to see how to adjust the spring, but there wasn’t any information. But, aha! help was written there: “For video instructions, please visit Unfortunately, no video existed on that site which is Pioneer Pets website. So I emailed them asking where I could find the video instructions.

To Pioneer Pets credit, they replied to my email within 1 day. That was good. But their response was: “The video is actually on YouTube. Search for “cat climber assembly” and
you will find a two-part video. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

My cat will pass away some day and I may not get another one, so I likely wasn’t going to be a constant purchaser of Pioneer Pet products forever. But, until I received this email, their lose future of a customer didn’t have to be a total failure. Unfortunately, since she couldn’t even be helpful enough to provide the actual video link to me in the response, they were fast approaching all out customer failure.

I replied to the email asking if she would just supply me with the link instead of me searching for it (it was basically the principle of the thing, rather than my effort to search) and asking why they didn’t just have the link on their website. I’m sure you can guess what might be coming. The second customer service response to me was: “I have been asking them to add the video to the website since I started here in January. I know it is frustrating. I did not know how to attach a link but I will try here.”

Nope, I didn’t get a link. I got to binary files attached to the email. So, not only will I never purchase another Pioneer Pets product, I will write to (who I am happy with thus far) and recommend they not carry Pioneer Pets products anymore. In addition, I’ve written this blog post to share with all of you and I will actively let other cat owners I know of my experience with the product and company. And that is my all out lost customer failure story for the day.

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More Stories By Christine Fife

As I drove off to college I never would have guessed I would end up here! But it’s been a fantastic journey. My career has been richly diverse giving me an advantage over marketers who are siloed into niche positions. I strive to be a true Renaissance person—I love to learn about everything and trying new things comes naturally. My career has been no different; I’ve successfully launched enterprise software and medical device development startups, improved communications processes for the regulatory department of a major financial exchange, increased client business and product development for several international exchange program companies and founded an international educational non-profit organization. My master’s degree in Integrated Marketing from Golden Gate University gave me a broad understanding of traditional marketing best-practices, but my BA in theater gave me the skills to understand how people communicate with one another and the importance of promoting a brand in a voice that is right for the audience.